Why does esports gather so many fans in France

Saturday May 7, France’s Karmine Corp won the European Masters (EUM), the European Championship for the game. league of legends. A total of 296,000 people watched their performance live on Twitch, including over 200,000 from OTP, the official Tricolor broadcaster. A craze for e-sports – video game competitions – which is confirmed year after year in France: during the last two editions of the European Championship, the meetings that aroused the largest number of fans were systematically the meetings of French clubs.

Unparalleled enthusiasm first associated with excellent results. This year, three French teams made up the last four teams at EUM. Going through the LFL [la League française de League of Legends, le championnat national]It’s a bit like going through Arsenal.”, explains sociologist and e-sports specialist Nicolas Bissumbis. But France is also establishing itself as a dominant country in other games: Vitality is one of the best teams in the world at Rocket League ; A European Championship title holder, the French also rose to the top of the world podium in 2019; And in the shooting game Counter-Strike: Global Offensiveis Lensois Zywoo (real name Mathieu Herbaut), who was named the world’s best player in 2019 and 2020.

French “esportainement”

“In France, we’ve had a very dynamic ecosystem since the end of the nineties. There are a lot of competitions. (…) We have a collaborative fabric with many actors spread across the territory.”Nicholas Bissumbis analyzes it. More than 80 gatherings are held every year, some of which have revealed talents: Kinstaar and Hunter, for example, made themselves known to the general public in 2018 at the Lyon e-sport, before qualifying a year later for the Fortnite World Championships. Thus, the tournaments with a central role, to which a large group of players must be added: in 2021, 4.2 million French people played video games at a competitive level, according to the France Esports federation, an increase of 900,000 compared to 2020. In three years, this has doubled The number since the discipline only amassed two million followers in 2018.

Read also: Karmine Corp, an atypical club at the helm of French esports

In addition to sports performance, French e-sports also have a societal aspect, which is more pronounced than that of its European neighbours. And for good reason, in recent years, many structures have developed around characters already known and appreciated by younger people: streamers. For example, Karmine Corp is built with the momentum of Kameto and Prime, two personalities from the French-speaking Internet.

Kamil Kabir, alias Kamet0, and Amin Makri, alias Prime, after an interview with Le Monde.  They put a few minutes before Carmine Corp airs in Paris on May 12, 2021.

“When there are people you like who are launching a project, you will necessarily have a look. And if the people behind the project like it, it is easier to be united than if you are an outsider,” Sacur Ross, Solary’s president, explains. Its structure, created in October 2017 by many famous streamers, such as Chap or Jbzz, today gathers hundreds of thousands of supporters. “A lot of people told us ‘I haven’t necessarily seen esports before, but when I launched the project I was connected to the team and it makes you want to support'”, He says. Old structures also use this lever, such as the Vitality team, which was set up in 2013, and who now has ambassadors on social networks. “It allows the team values ​​to be spreadexplains Fabian David, President of Vitality. To tell a story to create a sense of belonging and empathy. »

With the communities reaching over a million viewers, the streamers breathed new life into the discipline, creating what Sakura calls“sportsmanlike”, A mixture of competition and mainstream entertainment. e-sports touched by “Mainly from the well-to-do social classes, who have an appetite for the world of computer and video games”Nicholas Bissumbis notes. Now, with the help of easy access to matches (most of them are now streamed live on Twitch or YouTube), players have Reached a more popular and diverse audience.

Integration into everyday life

With them, these new fans bring a culture of endorsement and possession. Pre-made cues and jingles, give voice and character to their favorite team. The atmosphere, now reminiscent of major football matches, gives a whole new dimension to tournaments. This is one of the reasons that prompted the global superstar Rekkles to sign with Karmine Corp: “I watched them and supported them on the French broadcast and the feeling was so much fun. (…) I knew it would be crazy when I joined them, but at this point, never.”Witness With journalist Laure Valée.

During the intervening rounds between the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron captured the site big whale His desire to give more space to esports: “In this regard, we have a historic opportunity: that of the 2024 Olympics. It is up to us to take advantage of it to connect the Olympics of the two worlds by hosting the biggest esports events in the world that year.” Even if this declaration was made in an electoral context, it still revealed the incorporation of discipline into the daily life of the French people. More and more cities in France are hosting competitions, such as Strasbourg, which hosted the Trackmania Cup final in 2019, or Boulogne-Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine) which will Day of LFL July 21. As for the traditional sports clubs, they are also pushing the boundaries with online sports. Since January 2020, Olympique Lyonnais, for example, has been a partner of the French LDLC team.

It must be said that the potential of the sector is attracting more and more investors. While they pumped only 5 million euros in 2017, that number rose to 29 million in 2019, according to a study by the Ministerial Center for Foresight and Economic Changes. Financial vitality makes it possible to attract talented players from all over Europe and make more offers to the fans. Utopian Circle shows that in a few years esports has succeeded in becoming, in the words of Nicolas Besombes, “a complete social fact”.

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